Our last night on the ice.
To the podium! The final six — Yuri, Yurio, Otabek, Chris, Phichit and JJ — skate their free programs and finish the Grand Prix. Yurio wins gold for his amazing short program, Yurio wins silver with an intense free skate, JJ climbs back up to bronze, and Otabek, Christophe, and Phichit get fourth, fifth, and six respectively. Finally, Yuri asks Victor to coach him for one more year, and he agrees.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, this episode feels rushed. What’s there is good, but there’s so much that isn’t there — so much we don’t get to see — that it doesn’t quite feel whole. I honestly had to check the show on Wikipedia to make sure I hadn’t missed an episode. There are so many things left out: the Grand Prix aftermath, JJ’s recovery, Otabek and Yurio’s friendship, the family at Hasetsu; so many tiny pieces they didn’t have room to show.
Time ultimately seems like the problem here. The final episode of Yuri on Ice feels like a compromise: a kludge to somehow fit thirteen episodes of story into twelve episodes of anime. I really would have liked to see them split this portion in two: make episode 1.12 about the free skate, then open 1.13 with the podium onwards. This story demands a slow and careful conclusion, not a vague, hasty exit with some lip-service toward the future.
So there isn’t enough here, but what’s here is still very good. Victor’s tears at the beginning are genuinely heartbreaking, Yuri’s performance is a loving dedication to their relationship, Yurio’s is a furious battle where he finally gets to use all the skills he’s learned from Lilia, and even Phichit gets some cute character development! Plus, JJ recovers from his mysterious stress-induced failure and manages to crawl his way back to bronze.
(Oh, and Chris was there too. Sorry Christophe but you never were that exciting; just constantly, unwaveringly okay.)
Ultimately, Yuri on Ice feels like a show built on compromise: Skating is expensive to animate, so they cut down on backgrounds. The story ran too long, so they had to cut plots and cram the finale. Yuri and Victor’s relationship was too much for Japan, so they obscured all the gay stuff. Compromise after compromise, bargain after bargain, flaw after flaw.
There’s a beautiful story at the heart of this: an amazing and heartwarming tale about love, depression, confidence, dependence, and what it truly means to be more than your own individual self. But built above that flawless heart is another story, one that’s also strangely perfect in its own way: a story about art, about animating your dreams, about accepting the fact that you have to do your best with whatever you’ve got, and trust that your audience will do the rest.
Both of these stories are powerful, both of them are important, and both of them brought me to tears. (But I’m still really pissed about JJ.)
Some final notes before we wrap this up:
- Apparently Stephane Lambiel is a real guy! What a nice little cameo.
- JJ’s recovery is as mysterious as his failing, it just magically happens. Also, his fiance still doesn’t get a goddamn name! (According to Wikipedia, it’s “Isabella”.)
- Chris also gets a dose of the JJ poison: he just kinda messes up his free skate for no real reason, other than that he’s slightly distracted by Victor and Yuri.
- I love the visual of Yurio, Yakov and Lilia marching like soldiers to the ice. So fierce!
- I honestly think Phichit should have been third, he deserved it the most. Screw JJ!
- Yikes, that ending. A cutesy credits sequence and a tiny moment with Yuri. Not enough.
That’s all for today, and for Yuri on Ice! Thank you so much for reading this series, and be sure to tune in tomorrow when we start our next new show! Remember, if you haven’t already, you can join the Patreon and vote on which show to watch next!